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Fans rally for Gator favorites

January 02, 2004|by DON AINES

As the Gator Bowl began Thursday, Mountaineer diehards at Ollie's Sports Bar & Grill in Martinsburg, W.Va., were thirsting for revenge - and maybe a couple of cold ones - for the 34-7 mauling West Virginia University suffered earlier in the season at the hands of the University of Maryland Terrapins.

By the end of the game, Terps fans in the Stadium Tavern in Hagerstown were savoring hot dogs, cold beer and Maryland's most lopsided bowl victory ever.

"Fear the Turtle!" Brad "Beef" Grimm bellowed at the end of the game, which the Terrapins won, 41-7.

"Go back. Go back. Go back into the woods!" about two dozen Maryland fans chanted as the final seconds ticked away.

Earlier in the day, when the game still was scoreless, Derek Richard and Tony West were watching the game at Ollie's.

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"Cover somebody!" Richard yelled as Maryland wide receiver Jo Jo Walker ripped off a big gain.

"I'm a West Virginia fan, as if you couldn't tell from the last play," said Richard, who attended WVU from 1995 to 1999.

Richard and West were the ying and yang of Gator Bowl fans Thursday, two friends rooting for opposite teams, with West decked out in a Maryland hat and sweatshirt in enemy territory and howling approval for every Mountaineer miscue and Terp big play.

A few stools down the bar, a couple of Morgantown, W.Va., natives and WVU alumni were enjoying the early minutes of the game.

"We're diehard fans. We go to all the games," said Andrew Smith of Charles Town, W.Va., who used to play pickup basketball games with former Mountaineer quarterback Major Harris.

Jarrod Bonfili of Martinsburg took a cell phone call from his father in West Palm Beach, Fla., asking about the point spread in the game.

"Let me call you closer to halftime and I'll give you my true prediction," Bonfili told his father. "I'm predicting a West Virginia victory," he added.

Within a couple of minutes, however, Maryland quarterback Scott McBrien connected with wide receiver Jafar Williams for a touchdown to give Maryland a 10-0 lead.

"It could be a long day," said Jim Martin of Martinsburg.

"Or it could be a real short one," said Donnie Ramsey of Martinsburg.

"This is pathetic ... Why do we do this?" Smith anguished about the time Steve Suter returned a punt 76 yards for another Terps touchdown and a 17-0 lead.

"They look like they did at the beginning of the season," Bonfili said, noting how the Mountaineers started 1-3 before reeling off seven straight wins.

"I'd like to see them play good, but this is just ridiculous," West said as Maryland continued to dominate West Virginia.

As the fans' mood darkened at Ollie's, spirits were a bit higher at Replays, the sports bar at the Four Points Sheraton in Hagerstown.

"I would have thought West Virginia would have made some adjustments" from the team's first loss to Maryland, said Dan Fraker of Williamsport. He described himself as a "casual Maryland football fan and an avid Maryland basketball fan."

"It's a blowout. The game's over," Scott Coulter said as Maryland held a 24-0 lead early in the third quarter. The margin was 34-7 by the end of the quarter.

No Mountaineer fans were in sight at Stadium Tavern, where one room was set aside for Terps fans who were raising a deafening roar as the game entered the final quarter.

Denny "Yeah Daddy" Blair of Hagerstown was among the biggest cheerleaders, sporting a Gator Bowl T-shirt his boss sent him via Fed-Ex from Jacksonville, Fla.

"We've got a lot of bandwagon jumpers, but I've been with them in the bad years," said Rick Blair of Williamsport, no relation to Denny Blair. Grimm said many of the people in the room either were season ticket holders or Terrapin Club members for many years.

It was not a great day for Mountaineer football, but Smith said West Virginia fans are loyal, in part because the state has no professional sports teams.

"It runs deep with us," he said.

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